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Musings: Court Ruling

A Court Ruling In Everyone’s Favor … 

The groundbreaking ruling came forth last month.The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision for our movement June 25, 2012, ruling in the companion cases of Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life-without-parole sentences imposed on children violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. The historic ruling holds that it is unconstitutional to sentence any child under age 18 convicted of homicide to a mandatory life-without-parole sentence. The ruling will affect hundreds of individuals whose sentences did not take their age or other mitigating factors into account. It requires the lower courts to conduct new sentencing hearings during which children’s age, life circumstances, and other mitigating factors must be considered.

This is a landmark decision that we at ANK Enterprises support. The present decision brings us into alignment with much of the rest of the world, who hold youth different than adults in punitive sentencing. For example Germany’s stiffest sentence is five years for youth offenders.

To get a clear view of the importance of the Supreme Court ruling, please watch the Democracy Now interview HERE. Bryan Stevenson – who argued the case to the Supreme Court and has been fighting for the cause for 30 years – speaks here with me in this interview hosted by Amy Goodman.

In the work I have been doing over the last 17 years I have met many juvenile offenders. I have, however, never met a juvenile offender who was not a victim. Some of the abuses these juvenile offenders have endured bring tears to my eyes on a regular basis. No child was born violent, and much of the violence that is perpetrated is an expression of their victimization. One way to reduce or eliminate violence is to make sure these young souls are not victimized, as we address their victimization early in their lives.

It is cost effective to reach these offenders early on since California spends $212,000 per year per juvenile to incarcerate. The judges in the past have not considered the youth victimization prior to sentencing. This legislation now forces the judges to take into consideration the offender’s abuses and victimization. Also research shows that the brain is not fully developed until the middle twenties. It is important that judges take this into consideration. Most importantly it is my personal belief that we can turn the majority of these juvenile offenders into productive and contributing members of society.

One program leading the way in restoring youth is CANEI (Constant and Never Ending Improvement) alongside the National Youth Advocate program ( NYAP, which has been in existence for 32 years and is present in seven states, daily serves 2,000 children youth and families. They are an incredibly compassionate organization providing needed service to this community of a marginalized under-served population.

CANEI – in its 11th year and already in seven cities – works with violent offenders to restore them into society. It is a 6-month highly intensive program producing amazing exemplary results. The data over the last 4.5 years shows that we can turn around 70 percent of the juveniles that commit violent offenses. Many then return to society serving in the social arena making sure other juveniles do not follow in the footsteps of gangs, guns and violence. Once these offenders turn around they become powerful passionate advocates of living a life of nonviolence, free from drugs and alcohol.

It is important we support these efforts by calling and letting our legislative elected officials know we wholeheartedly support the Supreme Court decision. As well we can make them aware of the wonderful work being done in this arena by TKF, CANEI and NYAP. Your support means a lot to the many youth that are rotting in prison. While we can’t save all of them we can most definitely save the majority.

My sense is that as a nation we need to be more compassionate than punitive. What is needed in turning these lives around is forgiveness, hope and love. Thank you for being part of the solution, and the restoration of our youth and our nation.

Call To Action – Contact your local legislatures at the Federal Level and let them know you support the Supreme Court Ruling. A list of representatives found HERE.

Many Blessings,

Azim N. Khamisa

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Azim Khamisa

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